Covering the West Virginia Power the way I do for Pirates Prospects sometimes presents a few challenges. When the team goes on the road, it is often hard to track down anything in the way of quotes or comments from coaches and players. So when there is a road trip on the horizon, I try to bank a story or two to build off from the team’s most recent home stand.
That was the case last week, and the player I interviewed and planned to write about in this space today with the Power on the road this week was Dylan Busby. His situation, however, has changed drastically since we spoke.
Busby was hit in the head by a fastball from Lexington Legends pitcher Collin Snyder on Sunday afternoon. He received medical treatment on the field and left Appalachian Power Park in an ambulance. He was placed on the seven-day disabled list Monday. There is video of the play at this link, but fair warning it shows Busby getting hit in the head and the immediate aftermath.
Prior to his injury, however, Busby had been one of West Virginia’s most consistent players at the plate and solid at third base defensively, as the Power finds itself in the thick of the race for the South Atlantic League Northern Division first half title.
“He’s a good ballplayer. He’s big, he’s physical — he’s what a third baseman is supposed to look like,” West Virginia manager Wyatt Toregas said last week prior to Busby’s injury. “He’s very dependable at third base. We’re continuing to work his backhand stuff, that can get a little better, but anything right at him or to his left he’s really good about cutting those off and getting the ball to first. He has good feel about when to play in or back. He makes my job easier as a manager when I don’t have to look over to him all the time. I can trust him to be in the right spot at the right time.”
Busby was a 2017 third round pick by the Pirates out of Florida State and played last summer with the short-season New York-Penn League’s West Virginia Black Bears (which I will likely start referring to here as simply “Morgantown” — having two teams in the same farm system named “West Virginia” is a rant I’ll save for another day). He hit just .188 with one home run and 11 runs batted in while striking out 48 times with 11 walks with the Black Bears.
This season, Busby has been focused on balancing an aggressive approach at the plate with learning to be more selective. That work has produced results, especially as of late.
“In college, my freshman year, I was swinging at every single pitch that was thrown,” Busby said last week. “There’s a lot of people that will attest to that and tell you that if it was white and coming toward the plate, I was swinging. I got out of that a little bit by my junior year but there were still times when I would guess, and I’d guess a lot more than I should knowing I could get away with it later in the at-bat. Coming to pro ball, the pitchers are all quality. You have to stay stubborn in your zone.”
Toregas said getting the Sarasota, Florida native to buckle down was not a problem. The trick now is to make that approach an every at-bat thing, rather than just an occasional one.
“His bat is coming around,” Toregas said. “He’s starting to understand that it’s not like college where he can just hit everything. These [pitchers] have certain areas of the plate when they throw the ball there, they’re going to beat you. That’s why they’re in professional baseball. For [Busby], we’re just trying to lower his zone a bit. In college, with the metal bat, he was used to being able to get to some of these balls at the top of the zone. He still kind of goes there from time to time, but it’s a lot less frequent that it was the first couple weeks of the season, which is why he’s having more success now finding barrel. He’s taking pitches that are ‘their’ pitches and swinging at more pitches that are ‘his’ pitches. The long-term goal for him is to get him to completely eliminate swinging at ‘their’ pitches and only lock in to the pitches he wants to swing at to be able to identify that and still be able to pull the trigger. He’s starting to get a feel for that, and that’s why you’ve seen more consistent at-bats from him lately.”
Prior to his injury, Busby was batting .233 with five home runs, 18 RBIs, 36 strikeouts and 12 walks. Some of those statistics seem low, but he’s still digging out of a hole from the start of the season in that regard. Over his last ten games, Busby was batting .278 with four home runs and 11 RBIs with 12 strikeouts and one walk. He credits the work his teammates — guys like Calvin Mitchell and Oneil Cruz, to name a few — do ahead of him in the lineup. Those players can grind at-bats, and that pays off when Busby comes to the plate.
“My success comes from the guys hitting in front of me,” Busby said. “I’m a guy who likes to see a lot of pitches, especially with the hitter in front of me. The more pitches they can see, the better at-bats they have and the more stress they can put on him. It’s usually after a batter puts a lot of stress on a hitter and they know, ‘Hey, I just got away with one,’ then they let up a little bit. So I try to keep that mentality of it’s not just what I’m doing but what the guys in front of me are doing. I try to take advantage especially when a pitcher is trying to get something over for a strike.”
No new information about the severity of Busby’s injury has been made available. He was able to go on the road trip with his teammates, so that’s a good sign, but his possible return date is unknown at this time. Once he’s able to return to action, the hope is that he can pick up right where he left off, adjusting at the plate to the pitching in pro ball.